Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Kill the Culture

Cliff responds to the kidnapping and murder of two young New Orleanians: "We’ve had a love affair with the thug even though we know there’s a good chance he might not live long or destroy the community. It became such an acceptable way of living that it spawned its own culture. It has its own music, dress, and language."

Every time I hear something like this, the neurons start firing, and I wonder when the great debate over culture will finally take the center stage. Real culture wars aren't waged against Santa Clause and nativity scenes. Real culture wars spill real blood and it is time we began to recognize that fact. Even talking about this is fraught with peril.

The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.
- Daniel Patrick Moynihan

I remember when Harvard went back to re-examining Moynihan, and his highly controversial study. Go and read it, because so much of what dominates our public discourse today is the same thing that we were arguing about back in 1965. The more things change, right?

Following in this vein are two recent works that have been brought to my attention since I moved to New Orleans, where the rubber really hits the road on this issue. The first is The Central Liberal Truth by Lawrence Harrison. It ain't an easy read, both in style and in content. But it is a bitter pill worth forcing down.

Next is More than Just Race by William Julius Wilson, which was pilfered from my hands by another before I could really get into it. I will get it back, eventually, for a full report.

But these are good places to start if you truly want to examine how to kill the culture, and how cultures kill.

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